In 2019 the InterLaw Diversity Forum, supported by the SRA, signed an MOU with the American Bar Association (“ABA”) to adapt the ABA’s US Model Diversity Survey ("ABA MDA") for use in the UK. The ABA MDS is now in its fourth year with over 150 Client Signatories and nearly 500 Law Firm Participants in the United States. In 2020 we solidified this arrangement with the ABA by signing a further “Collaboration Agreement”. Our UK adaptation is entitled the InterLaw Diversity Forum UK Model Diversity Survey ("UK MDS").
The UK Model Diversity Survey (“UK MDS”) is a supplier diversity questionnaire which corporate and financial institutions (“client signatories”) use to monitor their panel firms/legal service suppliers on diversity, inclusion, and culture. The purpose of the survey is to serve as the standard for law firms’ reporting of their diversity metrics. The benefits the survey has are data uniformity, time efficiency, and trending year over year in aggregate and for individual firms.
The UK MDS is based on the 2021 version of the America Bar Association's MDS ("ABA MDS") in the US, who we are collaborating with. Future iterations of both versions will continue to mirror each other as much as possible, and will cross-pollinate as we share improvements back and forth. We are using the same service provider to run the online system, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), a not-for-profit company in the United States who are generously supporting this project. N.B.The UK MDS and the ABA MDS will run as two parallel but totally separate and independent systems.
As part of our adaptation for the UK market, we have worked with the SRA to ensure all our diversity categories align with what the SRA will require law firms to report on this summer in their 2021 Diversity Questionnaire.
We have received GDPR advice for the UK MDS from Reed Smith, with support from Paul Hastings.
The UK MDS is more sophisticated than what most clients are currently asking from their firms. In-house lawyers frequently don’t understand or have visibility over the internal workings of law firms so don’t know the right questions to ask. The UK MDS asks the right questions.
The UK MDS can help clients shape their decisions about allocation of legal work to law firms/legal suppliers by creating greater transparency around diversity, inclusion, and culture in law firms. Microsoft has developed an online dashboard to be used by the clients signatories to make the data collected by the UK MDS truly accessible and useable. So instead of reams of tabular data sitting with procurement only, GCs and their legal teams can now easily dig in to compare their panel firms, including comparing their stats over time, if they wish to consider performance around diversity, inclusion, and culture when handing out work.
The UK Model Diversity Survey will assist law firms in providing uniform, thorough, and accurate information to their corporate and financial institution clients. Further, it will streamline D&I data collection for law firms by allowing firms to provide a single, uniform set of data to multiple clients. Firms are currently asked for a different set of diversity data, cut a different way, from every client who collects it. The more firm clients who use the UK MDS, the greater the cost and time savings for the firm.
About the Microsoft Dashboard
Microsoft has developed an online dashboard to make the data collected by the UK MDS more accessible and useable. This intuitive platform enables the client signatories to drill deep into the data and to draw out information and insights which might not be possible when viewing such large amounts of data in a tabular format. Clients will be able to make like-for-like comparisons between their panel law firms/legal service providers, as well as to compare data over time and measure their panel firms’ progress.
Current Status of the Project: Now launching
As part of the development of the UK MDS, we assembled a working group of general counsel, senior in-house lawyers, D&I experts, and law firm representatives to consult on the project. We consulted and coordinated with the SRA to ensure our diversity and social mobility categories are the same as those the SRA will be asking law firms to collect on this summer. We are working with the same supplier as the ABA, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), to develop the infrastructure and systems to launch the UK version.
We are now onboarding both Client Signatories and Law Firm Participants.
Foundation Client Signatories:
The Crown Estate
Cable & Wirless Communications
Cambridge University Press
Bolt-on Programmes to the UK MDS
Recent panel events discussing the UK MDS
Download an overview of the UK MDS for client signatories or for law firms